MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. -- The Mount Pleasant Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. To submit your letter email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the editor:
Every child — no matter her background or his residence — deserves pre-kindergarten education. Educators and researchers say that pre-K reduces the achievement gap up to 40 percent and is as good an investment as any economic program.
Pre-K programs prepare our children to succeed in school and decrease the likelihood of future poverty. The state committed to universal pre-K 15 years ago but few school districts — especially in Westchester — offer it because the state pays only a small percentage of the cost.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to immediately implement universal full-day pre-K and quality after-school programs for New York City kids. The mayor wants to fully fund his city initiative by dedicating $532 million from a proposed income tax surcharge on New York City residents earning over $500,000.
Recognizing pre-K’s importance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now proposed a statewide five-year plan for pre-K to be funded in the regular budget.
Some oppose the mayor’s plan arguing that allowing the city to have its own plan will somehow hurt the suburbs and upstate. While nothing could be further from truth, the competition between the plans threatens to once again derail statewide comprehensive universal pre-K and after-school programs.
So, with significant other school budget pressures, how do we bring quality pre-K and after-school programs to all Westchester children?
First, we need to admit that the governor’s plan is inadequate to meet the needs of the whole state. Standing alone, it only makes a one-year $100 million addition to this year’s budget. Many estimate that statewide pre-K will cost $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion annually.
Second, we should accept New York City’s offer to pay its own way — which will free up significant state money for the governor’s plan to pay for pre-K and after-school programs for the rest of the state.
Third, like New York City, we should have a dedicated funding stream filling a “lockbox” to fully fund the program — perhaps the new casino revenues. Funding through the state budget could result in wild fluctuations — state education aid is still lower than 2008-2009 levels.
By supporting New York City’s plan and implementing our own program for the rest of the state with dedicated funding, we can finally realize the goal of quality pre-K and after-school programs for everyone who wants it.
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti